An historic local political group’s policies about who may join are again raising questions about new media like the Internet and the citizen journalism movement.
Cincinnati City Councilwoman Roxanne Qualls recently launched her own blog, called Cincinnati Rox!
, in advance of this fall’s council elections. Qualls is a member of the Charter Committee, the city’s de facto third political party that advocates government reform and transparency.
After the blog was created, Jason Haap wrote an open letter this week to the Charter Committee that raised questions about why his membership application to the group was denied a few years ago. Haap is the local blogger known as the “Dean of Cincinnati” who operates The Cincinnati Beacon
In his letter, Haap wrote, “As you are probably aware ... the Charter Party denied my membership a few years ago, stating that those affiliated with ‘independent media’ were not welcome as members. In fact, in my rejection letter, the following rationale was stated: ‘To the best of organizational memory, Charter has never encountered this issue before. We will enforce the policy consistently and equally to all independent and traditional media outlets.’”
Haap’s troubles with the Charter Committee began in 2006, when he and colleague Justin Jeffre applied for membership. Jeffre was accepted but Haap didn’t receive a reply for months.
When Haap pressed the issue, Charter gave him a rejection letter. The letter, written by Executive Director Jeff Cramerding, included the provision cited above by Haap. In the letter, Cramerding stated he couldn’t recall that any member of the media had ever been a member.
Haap ridiculed that statement, noting that the Charter Committee was co-founded by a newspaper editor and one of its endorsed City Council candidates in 2005, Nick Spencer, was an active blogger at the time.
Haap’s most recent letter to Charter concluded, “As such, I am calling on your organization to deny Ms. Qualls membership in the Charter Committee. To do otherwise would be a gross contradiction of your own policy. Please advise when you intend to enforce this rule.”
Contacted about the letter, Cramerding said he had no comment.
Also, Haap recently used Charterites as an example when he challenged the Cincinnati Elections Commission about the vague definition of “political party” under the city’s charter and who is qualified to have a seat on the commission.